Is Google Required To Carry Anyone's Advertising? French Regulators Seem To Think So

from the huh? dept

We’ve seen a series of similar claims from companies related to the entirely bogus concept of “search neutrality,” which seems to suggest that search engines have some sort of moral requirement to include links or ads from certain companies even if the search engines don’t believe those links or ads add any value to its users. And, now, it appears, French regulators are agreeing with that nonsensical result. Apparently, a French GPS company named Navx complained to the government that Google had stopped including its ads, and French regulators have sided with Navx over Google.

The regulators seem to think that Google is somehow required to help Navx’s business:

“Google’s practices have suddenly and significantly affected Navx’s income, but also and essentially its growth potential,” it said as it granted Navx’s request for interim measures.

Well, gee, Google doesn’t display Techdirt as the top result for stuff we write about. That seems to significantly affect our income as well as our growth potential. But you don’t see us running to the government to force Google to do so.

The key part of the complaint appears to be that Google’s algorithm and policies are not publicly available, but again it’s not clear why it needs to be. I actually do agree that Google’s policies probably should be a lot more open and transparent, but that doesn’t mean the government should force them to be. Instead, if anything, this actually seems like a potential opening for a competitor to come in and hit Google. I’ve always felt that certain aspects of Google’s closed nature are an achilles heel for the company that no one has yet exploited.

Just because Google made a business decision to keep that information closed, and one company relied too much on Google for its business model, doesn’t mean that a government should step in and force Google to change how it does business.

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Comments on “Is Google Required To Carry Anyone's Advertising? French Regulators Seem To Think So”

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25 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Money

And in this case this would not be too burdensome. Let’s admit it, the world as a whole has tens of thousands of stupid laws and regulations specific to geographic areas. companies have danced around these for hundreds of years, and this is no different, it’s built into the cost of doing business.

TheStupidOne says:

“Google’s policies probably should be a lot more open and transparent”

I respectfully disagree here. If Google was transparent in how it conducted it’s searches and ranked pages, then there would undoubtedly be a horde of scammers that would do everything possible to get to be the #1 search result for specific popular searches. Indeed, for very popular searches these scammers would likely consume the entire first page of results. Google would of course remove them from the index, but within minutes or hours another page would be up in it’s place.

I’m a big fan of openness and transparency, but some things should remain hidden.

Otherwise I agree with your conclusions. Google isn’t obligated to help anyone’s business.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

It’s really a non issue for the user, in this specific case. Open, closed, filled with marmalade and powered by the souls of forsaken children what do we care.

When we search for piano cat we can a damn cat playing a piano! If they can’t provide that because the top choices return viagra bottled and shipped by Nigerian princes we will use something else.

There are established ways to try to game google to get up there.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Right, and after they figure out your security holes? Then what? Your security model falls apart. That’s windows’ security model and that’s why it is totally worthless.

Maybe your problem is that you think that an open system is inherently insecure because anyone can analyze it and discover it’s weaknesses? If so, I’ll give you the example of the RSA algorithm. It is open, anyone can analyze it and many people have tried to crack it.

No one was successful until now, although they found a few minor vulnerabilities, but most of them rely on having access to the computer where the algorithm is running at the time of ciphering or deciphering, so, most of the times, they are impractical.

The problem is that the base theory behind cracking RSA relies in factoring a very large number (and factoring is thought to be an NP-complete problem).

Strong security trumps obscurity any day.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Security through obscurity

True, but is this really security through obscurity? Security through obscurity is where you have data you want to keep private, and you put it where you think nobody will look. In this case the thing they want to keep private is their algorithms. How are they securing those? I’m sure they’re kept behind strong firewalls that use real security measures, and protected by probably pretty rigorous physical security too. That’s not security by obscurity.

Unless you’re arguing that there’s something else they’re actually securing. I can’t think what that would be though. The search results are obviously public.

Put another way, if this is security by obscurity, what would real security techniques be?

SomeGuy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Security through obscurity

Security through obscurity is generally understood to be any security measure that wholly or strongly relies on not being understood in order to provide protection. Once such a measure IS understood, it provides no protection. This being the case, if Google’s intent in keeping their methods closed is to prevent being gamed (I’m not convinced that’s their intent, really), then it qualifies.

Nastybutler77 (profile) says:

Positive Streisand Effect?

Is this a case where the Streisand Effect would have a positive result for this company? By suing Google and having Techdirt and other blogs and news agencies writing about them, wouldn’t that alone move them up in Google’s rankings, thus giving them the result they want?

Google would satisfy the French court’s ruling without having to do anything at all.

Free Capitalist (profile) says:

Mutated Fish

We’ve seen a series of similar claims from companies related to the entirely bogus concept of “search neutrality,” which seems to suggest that search engines have some sort of moral requirement to include links or ads from certain companies even if the search engines don’t believe those links or ads add any value to its users.

Once again I have to express my frustration that the definition of the ideal of “search neutrality” is being twisted to frame what is in essence power moves in the paid search (AdWords for Google) market.

The very concept of search neutrality is about content inclusiveness without heuristic or environmentally controlled biasing towards favored or partnered sources. This does not imply that every site should be listed for every search, just that search relevance should apply linguistic relevance without favoritism to “friendly” sites that do not really match the linguistic search. Also the concept of search-neutrality is about the hope that censorship does not take hold through broad (multilateral) algorithmic biasing.

That being said, there is no search-neutrality in the paid search market. The very concept of paid search is to present (hopefully relevant) advertisers’ content in a visible way when people use a search engine. This is a good thing for commerce, but it is not compatible with the definition of search-neutrality.

Paid search is not “bad”. Google is not evil for being in the paid search market. I’m just really disappointed that players in a very non-neutral market are trying to use the concept to gain leverage in a market.

Applying the concept of “search neutrality” to any of the mechanism of paid search is much like calling the current U.S. world economic system a “free market”. It does not compute.

The key part of the complaint appears to be that Google’s algorithm and policies are not publicly available, but again it’s not clear why it needs to be. I actually do agree that Google’s policies probably should be a lot more open and transparent, but that doesn’t mean the government should force them to be. Instead, if anything, this actually seems like a potential opening for a competitor to come in and hit Google. I’ve always felt that certain aspects of Google’s closed nature are an achilles heel for the company that no one has yet exploited.

Just because Google made a business decision to keep that information closed, and one company relied too much on Google for its business model, doesn’t mean that a government should step in and force Google to change how it does business.

I agree with pretty much all of that, and I appreciate the candor. Good commerce should not be hindered by governments. Their very involvement these days implies that market forces are trying to use the government to gain an advantage over competitors.

Google is a big juicy target, and it is sickening to watch governments fall over themselves to “get a piece”.

If I ran a business, I would certainly want to be able to directly shape the terms (and termination) of my contracts.

NAMELESS.ONE says:

ALL NEW GOOGLE 3 strikes YOUR NOT SEARCHABLE

1st time you whine they send you a notice that your infringing on there uber rights to do WHAT THE FUCK THEY WANT WITH THERE WEBSITE.

2nd Time you whine, they send you a sucker and a note for a doctors appointment that the govt of your country needs anti crazy pills.

3rd time they end your entire country from search.

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